Buffy the Vampire Slayer 4x18 Review: And the Award for Most Inappropriate Tribute to a Beloved Children's Book Goes To...
“Where the Wild Things Are”
Written by Tracey Forbes
Directed by David Solomon
Buffy is fighting a vampire. Her hair is still all nice and curly, but she’s wearing snakeskin pants? Riley is fighting with her, and she’s looking at him kick butt with fondness. They take out the monsters, but their conversation about how strange it is for vampires and demons to be working together gets cut short when they opt to start snogging instead. Which leads them back to Riley’s bedroom. They can tell Giles about the demon/vamp team-up eventually.
Eerie music plays while the camera slowly pans through Lowell House (which is where Riley lives). Eventually we get to Riley’s room, inside of which Buffy and Riley are sleeping. Riley wakes up and starts getting dressed. He seems to be getting the heebie-jeebies a little on his way to the bathroom. In the tub, he finds…nothing. The faucet’s just leaking, so he turns it off.
Xander’s current job is ice cream truck driver! Anya is in the truck with him, and he’s trying to convince her to come with him to a party at Lowell House. She doesn’t want to because everyone who lives there is an Initiative guy. She’s also upset because there has been the occasional night in the recent past when she and Xander didn’t have sex. She thinks it means they’re breaking up. I really like Anya’s shirt.
She doesn’t understand why Xander isn’t constantly all over her, and she thinks maybe it has something to do with this thing she saw on TV about erectile dysfunction. A topic that is enough to make him want to prove just how all over her he can be, right there in the ice cream truck. Which has been parked for long enough to attract a small crowd of children (and their parents). Enjoy being scarred for life, small crowd of children! Enjoy having to give your kids The Talk rather earlier than you’d planned to, parents!
Buffy, Riley, Willow, Tara, and Giles are sitting in the quad talking about the oddity of vampires and demons working together. Buffy and Riley has figured out Adam is behind it. Giles wants them to keep him updated if they find any more unusual demonic team-ups. Riley invites Giles to the Lowell House party, but, intriguingly, Giles has other plans. Buffy and Riley get more and more flirty with each other, sitting on the same chair, and then they decide to ditch the other three so they can go have more sex.
That evening, Forrest and Graham aren’t enjoying how freezing cold Lowell House is, and then they notice sex noises coming from Riley’s room. It seems he and Buffy have been there all day. After being there all night. Ew. This isn’t my ship. Stop it. Fortunately, the camera only briefly ventures into Riley’s room, just long enough for us to see his hand grabbing a condom out of the drawer of his nightstand. Then we follow Forrest and Graham instead (good). Even though one of their housemates has been stoking a fire in the fireplace for an hour, it’s still freezing. Ugh, back to Riley’s room. DO NOT WANT. Then the fireplace explodes, catching the poor sap who was stoking it on fire. Forrest and Graham hasten to put out the fire.
Anya, looking all pouty, rounds a corner somewhere in town, only for Spike to jump out and scare her. It seems this is something he does to get cash from people on a regular basis. Get a real job, you git! She seems to have the upper hand on him, when it comes to insults, until he points out that Xander doesn’t seem to be anywhere near.
It’s party time at Lowell house. Buffy and Riley are smiling and watching each other from across the living room, standing in their respective groups. Forrest and Graham are talking about the guy who almost got roasted, and Xander, Willow, and Tara are talking about how Anya didn’t want to come. Willow takes advantage of Buffy being in happy boyfriend cuckoo land to confess to ruining one of Buffy’s shirts.
At the Bronze, Anya and Spike are sitting mopily together, reminiscing about the times when they could wreak whatever havoc they wanted. Yeah. Those were the days. *eye roll* Spike thinks they should make a pact to go get the revenge they want for their failed relationships. (Wow, Anya, your relationship is not a failure. Go talk to your man, silly girl.) He’ll stake Drusilla if she eviscerates Xander. What a fun game. Anya turns the offer down, and Spike isn’t motivated to go hunt Drusilla down.
Oh hey, it’s one of the guys who turned into a caveman in “Beer Bad.” He’s back to normal, and he’s plying one of the chicks at the party with a lot of absurdly overinflated academese, hoping to impress her with his brain. What he fails to realize is that he’s coming across like a pretentious tool. Then he leans on the wall and…um. Apparently it’s an incredibly stimulating wall. Gross. Why isn’t that girl running away to get a restraining order?
Xander finds a pretty redhead checking out a trophy case somewhere in the house. And he makes her laugh! She asks who he’s at the party with, and he’s cool with being at the party with her.
Buffy grabs Riley away from Forrest and Graham so they can go “revise an essay.” (Don’t worry, I won’t be turning that one into a recurring euphemism. Probably. As someone with two English degrees, I sort of feel like that would creep me out too much. But I guess we’ll find out.)
Former caveman and the girl he was trying to seduce show another dude the mysteriously stimulating wall. Uggggggh. How awkward was this for the actors?
Willow and Tara are sitting on the stairs, chatting about horses. Willow had a bad experience with a pony when she was little, but Tara’s been a casual equestrian for most of her life. That’s cool. I’d forgotten that detail about Tara. Then, when Willow touches Tara’s knee, Tara freaks out. She gets up, looking like she’s about to bolt, then seems to come back to herself. She goes to the bathroom, leaving a very confused Willow behind.
Anya and Spike arrive at the party, but then Anya informs Spike that the reason the guys at the party look so familiar is that they’re Initiative guys! Whoops. He thinks she’s insane to bring him there. So does Xander, but for different reasons. Xander does not at all consider their relationship over, so he doesn’t like the possibility that she’s using Spike to make him jealous or something. Spike gets in Xander’s face and mocks him. Xander’s reaction is awesome. He loudly offers Hostile 17 a drink, making Spike duck down, all paranoid. Hahahaha. He leaves to go find alcohol. Xander tries to continue his conversation with Anya, but she’s a bit hysterical, thinking they have nothing in common, so now that they’re not even having sex anymore, there’s really nothing left of the relationship. Instead of reassuring her, he decides to do the “Fine!” “Fine!” thing. *rolls eyes* They storm away from each other, but make sure to remain in earshot so they can make big displays of how much fun they’re both having without each other.
One of the Initiative guys eyes Spike. He seems familiar. Spike just rolls his eyes about it, so the guy doesn’t do anything. Xander finds a game of spin the bottle, which includes the redhead from earlier. She invites him to join in (with her eyes). Xander spins the bottle and it lands on the redhead. He pecks her on the cheek, and then she jumps on him and starts ravenously making out with him. He pushes her away, shocked, and then she freaks out and runs away. He follows her and spots the crowd of people around the stimulating wall. Gross. He finds the redhead hacking her hair off in a closet, saying “I’m bad” over and over.
Willow looks for Tara, but the bathroom is empty. She gets a drink from the faucet, then notices weird sounds coming from the tub. A kid is drowning in there! She tries to rescue him, but he vanishes. Then, when she turns around, he’s standing right in front of her! She screams.
Buffy and Riley pause their marathon of sex just long enough to acknowledge and dismiss the sound of Willow screaming.
Xander tries to find someone who can help him with the redhead, and Willow comes to find him. They marvel at the high frequency of haunted frat houses at UC Sunnydale. Tara joins them. She’s pretty sure there’s something very wrong with the house. Nearby, the group playing spin the bottle gives it another spin, and then it spins so fast that it shatters. It’s time to go get Buffy. They race up to Riley’s door and pound on it. Then a bunch of vines start growing around it. Buffy and Riley don’t respond to their yells, and the camera zooms farther and farther away from Riley’s bed. Whatever’s wrong with the house, it seems to have them pretty deep in its clutches.
Tara looks over the banister as the house starts to shake. The guests run for the doors. Except Spike, who finds it amusing. Until his chair suddenly straps him to it with leather straps. Forrest is trying to do some crowd control, but Graham is just standing there spouting Biblical-sounding stuff. Forrest grabs him and drags him into the Initiative elevator with him.
The house finally stops shaking, and Anya watches a girl come screaming towards her, only to run right through her. Xander, Willow, and Tara flee downstairs, and Spike tears his way free of the chair. They all run outside, and Xander sees the redhead (without much hair left) staggering around, crying. He pulls her outside too.
The Initiative is trying to come up with a plan for how to deal with the house. Graham is back to normal now that he’s not inside it.
The Scoobies try to figure out what to do next. Anya doesn’t think they should bother, but Xander is displaying that valiance that’s been making me kind of like him lately. Spike offers to help, but then talks himself out of it by listing off all the reasons he’s an unlikely hero. *snort* He’s just going to go get some food instead. Xander tries to go back inside to get Buffy and Riley out, but he makes it like three steps inside before the house hurls him out. They need to get Giles.
They find him at the Espresso Pump, playing a guitar and singing “Behind Blue Eyes.” Extremely well. Dangit why did the episode have to be about the crazy sex house? Why couldn’t we have been in Giles’s perspective the whole time? This is so much better.
The Scoobies are all completely flabbergasted by Giles’s display of (sexy) musical talent. Except Tara, who hasn’t known him long enough to understand how out of left field this seems. Willow mentions that she used to have a crush on Giles (a woman of fine taste).
Buffy and Riley briefly roll away from each other. They seem super exhausted, but then they resume the sex anyway.
The Scoobies are at the university’s library, I think, trying to learn the history of Lowell House. Willow finds a newspaper article about how the building used to be a home for local troubled teens. There’s no mention of any deaths, though. And the lady who ran the house is still alive. So they go pay her a visit (minus Willow and Tara, for some reason).
She seems like a nice grandmotherly lady. And Christian. Very Christian. Perhaps insanely so. Oh dear. Yeah, she wasn’t a very good caretaker at all. She should’ve been imprisoned for child abuse, not given a medal. She cut off the girls’ hair so they couldn’t be vain. She “baptized” the ones who were particularly naughty in the bathtub. According to her, baptizing someone means nearly drowning them. Giles tries to give her a piece of his mind, but hers is so tightly closed that it just ricochets off. They’re not going to accomplish anything else by talking to her longer, so they leave.
Giles’s theory is that they’re not dealing with a ghost so much a hive of poltergeist created from the emotions and hormones of all those traumatized teenagers. Xander theorizes that Buffy and Riley might have kicked the hive with all their continuous sexytimes. They might be able to get it all to stop if they can just reach Buffy and Riley and get them to stop. Otherwise, the poltergeists will rage on until their battery runs out—meaning, until Buffy and Riley’s petits morts become two grands morts. From the looks of things, that might be happening soonish.
In Buffy and Willow’s dorm, Willow and Tara set up a spell to call up the spirit of the house, or something. Anya and Xander head over to the house, ready to charge in as soon as the spell works. Tara leads the spell, with Willow and Giles completing the circle. Some creepy-looking teenagers appear all around them, at which point the door of the house swings open. Xander and Anya cautiously step inside. The entire staircase is overgrown with leafy vines. Xander hacks his way through them with a machete.
Tara, Giles, and Willow try to get the spirits to let go of all their issues. I’m not sure the hormone poltergeists are capable of that kind of maturity. As soon as Xander touches the doorknob to Riley’s room, a gust of wind goes through both the house and the dorm room. Then their table of spell ingredients goes flying and the spirits vanish. At Lowell House, Xander gets dragged across the second floor landing into the bathroom and locked in. Anya gets thrown through the banister and across the living room, where she lands halfway on a couch.
Upstairs, Xander’s getting drowned in the tub while the poltergeists watch. Anya picks herself up and determinedly goes back upstairs. A vine bursts through her hand, and she just rips it back out and keeps going. Dang, Anya’s hardcore. She gets to Xander in time to pull him out of the tub, and they make another attempt at getting to Riley’s room. There are even more vines now. They slash Xander across the face. Together, they manage to fend off the vines and press forward. Finally, they just shove the door open. The camera zooms back in on Buffy and Riley and gets unblurry. Buffy and Riley have clearly noticed nothing and are mortified at the intrusion. But hey, the moment is ruined, so the poltergeists have nothing to feed off anymore. The house is already back to normal.
The next day, Buffy and Riley are having lunch with Willow, Xander, and Anya. The topic of discussion is Giles’s singing. Which is the only thing that should be discussed, as far as I’m concerned. Then Anya tries to guilt trip Buffy and Riley about how their sexcapades nearly got them and a bunch of other people killed. Buffy and Riley are a bit embarrassed, but not apologetic. They, at least, had a pretty good time during the haunting.
“Where the Wild Things Are” is easily in my bottom five Buffy episodes. The scene with Giles singing in the Espresso Pump is like a lonely lifeboat adrift in the revolting sea of this storyline. I don’t want to watch an episode about a haunting powered by a pairing I don’t ship having nonstop sex, in which the symptoms of the haunting are a varied buffet of other creepy sex-related things. Especially when it’s named after one of my favorite picture books from when I was little. I also don’t want to watch an episode where the person who caused the problem is a heinous religious nutjob. There aren’t nearly enough positive religious figures in the series to balance out characters like that old lady. Riley is the only character in the main titles at any point in the show who is a regular church-goer, but I doubt it would have hurt the story in any way to have had that be the case for a couple of other characters too. Still, this time around, I could definitely see what the writers were going for with Xander and Anya. They have a fight, and then they have to work together in order to defeat the Plot A problem, which in turn allows them to fix their Plot B problem. Fine, but I’m sure they could’ve found a better way to tell that story than this uncomfortable mess.
Is there really anything I can say about Buffy in this one? She spends 90% of the episode in bed with Riley. I suppose it’s kind of a red flag that Buffy would be so easily distracted from her Slayer duties by her boyfriend, right when they should probably be focusing on stopping Adam before he gets a major foothold. It’s not a red flag for the relationship itself, but for Buffy’s ability to successfully balance the relationship and slaying.
The way Xander handles his fight with Anya is so weird. Why couldn’t he just tell her that he likes her as more than just a girl he has sex with a lot? They have a relationship, and he wants that to involve friendship as well as physicality. He starts saying something to that effect, but then he just lets her bowl over him with her continued complaints about how a lack of constant sex means they’re obviously breaking up. Wait hang on, does that mean the message of the episode is that a relationship that consists of nothing but sex can’t last, which was a lesson Anya needed to learn? And Buffy and Riley are part of that in a super literal way, because they’ll actually die if they don’t do something besides have sex soon? And the pervy haunted house was like the physical manifestation of how Xander and Anya Anya have to get past this mindset Anya has, by literally getting past a series of obstacles created by sex? Ugggggh I hate this episode so much.
I think I can take this episode as evidence that Willow and Tara are still in the early stages of their physical relationship. Tara’s reaction to Willow’s hand on her knee would’ve been a much bigger indicator of Plot A weirdness had they already fully consummated the relationship. I love the bit about how she used to have a crush on Giles. I didn’t used to get that, but I very much get that now. Giles is incredibly attractive.
I’ve got nothing new for Riley that I didn’t already say about Buffy, pretty much.
Spike is so melodramatic. Really? You’re going to make a pact to kill Dru? She’s all the way in South America. By the time he got there, he’d probably just change his mind and try to convince her to take him back. His conversation with Anya strikes a weird chord. He’s soulless, but why is she still so nostalgic for her mass-murdering days? I’m still not convinced that Spike is indispensable to the Scooby gang formula.
Giles is just wonderful. I’m not sure I get why he’d be so keen to hide his acoustic guitar hobby from the Scoobies. They always act like he’s all stuffy and out-of-touch. This is strong evidence to the contrary. Does he prefer them to think him stuffy and out-of-touch so that they’ll give him a little space when he wants it? Seems possible.
*jovially and very loudly, in the middle of a crowd of Initiative guys* “Hey, what a surprise! Hostile 17! Can I get you a drink, HOSTILE 17?”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.